- Created on Saturday, 05 January 2013 21:53
- Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 07:51
- Written by Jeff Noital
Mills seems to be stuck as the third point guard in the San Antonio Spurs' rotation, but when he has played this season he's brought much needed qualities to the backup slot to Tony Parker. The Spurs have two other players who can play the position and who are earning more minutes over Mills in Gary Neal and Nando De Colo. Both men have a different game compared to Mills and they also mix well with the team, but here's to making the case for Patrick Mills to be the backup PG to Tony Parker.
Speed - His quickness and speed rivals Parker's. In the open court, he's a lethal weapon and open a lot of the time. You put him in with Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, and Stephen Jackson as the second unit, that's a versatile group that can shoot the 3 and pass the ball while looking to run every posession.
He also fits with the rest of the players on the team. If Coach Popovich wanted to go with a small backcourt, Parker paired along with Patrick would be an ultra quick offensive minded duo with help in the paint against taller guards. Mills has used his quickness as the point guard and shooting guard when he's been paired up next to the other shooting guards. His speed on both sides of the court makes him extremely valuable.
Shooting - While Neal is looked at the better overall shooter, Patty isn't far behind him (if he's even behimd him depending how you look at it). Neal is shooting 35% from the three point line compared to Mills' 44%, but the most important part of that stat is how many shots they've taken to get there. While it's true that Neal will take more shots because he's playing more, Mills is shooting a better percentage while taking 43 less shots (Mills: 31-70, Neal: 40-113).
He's not only shooting a better percentage than Neal, but he's almost catching up to his total three pointers made with fewer shots. Neal does have the advantage in overall shots and makes (116-274 to Patty's 64-130), but minutes play a large part in that. Gary Neal is averaging 24.2mpg this season and has started next to Tony Parker when the Spurs were riddled with injuries while Mills, at the back end of the point guard slot, is averaging just 11.7mpg this season. Patrick's contributions in shooting three pointers compared to Neal's is impressive including the overall percentage for shots in half the minutes per game.
Finishing At The Rim - This is one of the two attributes that really separates the two players. We've seen a few examples this year where Neal couldn't finish (this block is the most recent example where Neal can't come close to finish under the rim). Mills' speed helps him in that department. His ball handling also helps because he won't be trapped underneath the basket if a bigger player catches up or he feels that his shot will be disrupted. This is a department that his speed compliments.
With Gary Neal, an opponent can play close to him and still meet him for a block at the rim with his lack of speed and quickness. With Mills, a player can back off and give him a shot or play close and force his team to help under the rim because he's a good finisher there. Patrick has a floater to his game, which makes it extra difficult to stop him under the rim or close to it. Neal's preference and limitation to spot up shooting makes him extremely easy to guard compared to Mills.
Defense - This is the other characteristic that separates them. The Spurs' defense focuses on help defense, but the main attribute that makes it succeed is man defense. This year, the team has been playing better man defense than we've seen these recent years (mainly from Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green). The team is relying less on help and more on defending their own man and forcing teammates to help only when needed. Gary Neal is at a disadvantage in both guard positions on defense.
As a point guard, he's too slow to keep up with the opposing one guard. His man gets by him easily on possessions which forces his team to help out and leave another man open. Patrick is quick enough and defensive minded to stay with his man. If he tries to cheat to help another teammate out, his speed becomes a luxury. He can recover quicker if his man gets the ball. As a shooting guard, he's undersized at that position. Standing at 6'4" and slow legs for a two guard, he becomes a big liability in that department. A two guard can easily get by him on a drive or can shoot over him. Patty is shorter than Neal (6'0") but his quick feet allow him to get as close as he can to the bigger player which forces that player to go the route that he wants to (in the Spurs' case, it's baseline). His feet can easily disrupt the rhythm of the offensive player.
Mills is having a good season despite his lack of minutes and that's what makes him impressive. If he had more consistent playing time, he would be putting up better numbers that may surpass Neal's progress and contributions this season. If Mills can keep producing at this rate, Gregg Popovich may be forced to end the Gary Neal experiment for this season. We've seen what Patty Mills can do when he's given the opportunity and freedom on the court as we saw in the most recent Olympics with his huge games playing for his national team of Australia.